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A few days passed in relative peace. Aragorn continued to sleep, his body having the final word no matter how much he fought it, as it struggled to return him to health. A sharp cry awoke him from a sound sleep and he lay still, listening intently. His eyes were just beginning to close when another cry, more of a shout, caused him to jerk. He instantly recognized the scream to be Frodo’s and the hobbit sounded frantic, his voice filled with pain and terror. Aragorn swept the blankets aside and glared down at the traitorous leg. Undaunted, he looked about him and his eyes lit on a pair of intricately carved crutches leaning against the wall next to his bed. He smiled, making a mental note to thank the wizard later. He reached for them and ran his hand down the length seeing Gandalf’s familiar rune at the end of one crutch. This would be the second set of crutches the great Istari had fashioned for him in his lifetime. “Let us hope it is the last,” Aragorn muttered to himself.
“My soul! Aragorn, you cannot be up! Here, let me help you lie back down,” the healer squealed as he rushed to Aragorn’s side. “You are far too weak to stand and if you should fall, you could re-break that leg,” he continued, reaching out for the man.
Aragorn brought the elf up short with a threatening glare, “Come no further,” he growled. Taken aback the man stopped cold. “I am going to the Ringbearer and you can either join me or leave me be,” Aragorn hissed.
“You know that you could easily maim yourself for life by this foolishness. The Ringbearer is being attended to most expertly, I can assure you,” the elf huffed, drawing himself up.
“I prefer to see that for myself. I heard him call out and he did not sound as if he was being “attended to” in any way that he wished,” Aragorn said, wobbling precariously as he leaned into the elf’s face. “You will remove yourself or I shall do it for you,” he whispered dangerously.
The healer felt a prickle on the back of his neck as the hair rose, taking a step backwards as he locked eyes with the Ranger. Aragorn straightened, adjusted the crutches and began making his way slowly out of the room and down the hallway. He had to stop frequently to catch his breath and it seemed like Frodo’s room was much farther away than he remembered. Frequently, he would have to bite the inside of his mouth to force himself to remain alert. He stumbled only once and was grateful that the healer had been nearby, circling him like some chaotic satellite, to prevent him from falling. Finally, he arrived at Frodo’s doorway and looked inside at the pale hobbit seemingly fighting off a room full of concerned care givers.
“He will be well again, Samwise. Do not despair,” Deara reassured. “It is a hard thing to eat when you feel so ill. Still, it would be nice to get something into him today. Do you have any ideas…foods that he especially enjoys? Perhaps we could tempt him.”
Sam’s eyes lit up; finally a project to occupy his time. “Yes Miss, he loves fruit of all kinds and of course, mushrooms. I could make him some peach froth and oh, some carrot juice. Nothin’ tastes better than a cold glass of juice when yer sick!”
“Wonderful! It sounds like you have some good ideas to start with,” Deara said with a smile.
“I’ll see to it right away,” Sam exclaimed. Before she could respond, he flew off the bed and out the door and she could hear the patter of his feet as he hurried towards the kitchens. The smile she had given so easily to the gardener left her face as she rung out another cloth and placed it on Frodo’s forehead. She was deeply concerned. The fever should have broken by now and she worried that there was something else at work draining the strength from her patient.
“Poor Sam, he really has had an awful time of it lately,” came a hoarse whisper.
Deara’s eyes twinkled as she looked down into the fever bright ones of the Ringbearer. “I’m afraid he got more than he bargained for when he decided to come with me on this little adventure,” he whispered.
He looks so sad, Deara thought. She pressed the damp cloth to his lips then took another to wash away the perspiration and matter from his eyes. “I believe Samwise is happiest when he is seeing to *your* needs. I think he is perfectly happy here on your ‘little adventure’ as long as he can be by your side to make your task a bit lighter. He would have been miserable if you had left him behind, would he not?”
Frodo gave her a wan smile, “He would have followed I am sure. He is quite devoted to me.”
“Then he is the perfect person to have by your side to lift your spirits and help you with this arduous deed,” Deara said with a wink.
Frodo smiled at her then his face changed as he began to cough. He rolled to his right side and pulled his legs to his chest as he struggled to gain just one breath. She reached for him but he held up his hand, “No,” he said. His eyes were watering and his face was turning a dark red as he tried to expel the mucus from his lungs. Finally, she could take it no more and though he weakly pushed her away, she pulled him over her lap and gave him two hard hits between his shoulder blades. A large wad of bloody expectorate landed on the blankets, leaving a trail of saliva from Frodo’s mouth. He cried out in pain, but he was finally able to take a wheezing breath.
He lay there for a moment just relishing the simple action of breathing. He felt like a fish out of water, struggling for each lungful of air. Deara slowly pulled him upright and placed him up against two or three hurriedly gathered pillows before looking into his face.
“Better?” She asked quietly.
Frodo’s eyes were closed and his color was still very high. Sweat beaded his face as he took small sips of air. “Yes, thank you,” he whispered.
“Frodo, you need to take slow, deep breaths and use your whole lung, otherwise you will not get sufficient oxygen.
“It is too painful, I do not want to cough anymore,” he croaked. He was clutching his left arm, holding it firmly against his body.
Deara gently touched the left shoulder, checking for swelling. The arm was quite frigid to the touch.
“No! Do not touch it!” Frodo cried loudly and recoiling.
“Frodo, I could ease your pain with some hot compresses. If you would but allow me to…”
“NO! No, stay away!” Frodo shouted as he struggled out of reach, coughing violently.
The patter of multiple feet caused Deara to turn quickly and look towards the doorway. Hobbits crammed the entrance into the room before Sam squeezed in between them.
“What are you doing to him?” He bellowed.
Merry and Pippin raced to Frodo’s side, speaking softly in an attempt to calm their cousin.
“No!” Frodo screeched, pushing himself as far to the right of the bed as possible. He clung to Merry, turning fever bright eyes up at him. “Don’t let her, Merry, please, please help me.”
Pippin’s eyes teared up as he looked at his cousin, his heart wrenching to see the normally docile gentlehobbit change into this wild thing. “Merry, maybe we should…” Pip’s voice quavered.
Unheard by all in the room, Elrond and three healers entered the room quite out of breath. Sam marveled anew at how elves could run so silently. Gandalf tromped up behind them, pushing all but Elrond aside to gain entrance. “Frodo Baggins! What is the meaning of all this caterwauling?” He boomed. Frodo flinched away, tightening his grasp on Merry’s arm.
“You’re frightening him!” Sam shouted, placing himself squarely between his Master and the wizard. Elrond squelched a smile as he watched the small gardener take on the obviously larger foe who dared to threaten the one he cared most for. Pippin moved up beside Sam with a grim and resolute tightening of his jaw. He looked defiantly at the entourage. ‘Ah, now we see the true mettle of the family Took and future Thain,’ Gandalf mused admiringly.
“Little Masters’ if I may, I would like to talk with Frodo,” Elrond said softly. Frodo turned frightened eyes towards the elf Lord. Seeing this fear Elrond added, “I will not touch the arm Frodo, until you say that I may.” Frodo relaxed slightly. Elrond raked his eyes over the left arm and saw that it hung limply at Frodo’s side. The hand was swollen and to his dismay, he saw that the upper arm was red and distended. He cringed inwardly, saddened that the Ringbearer would have to endure additional pain. But what had caused this injury? He mused. I should never have allowed them to go on that outing, he thought for the 100th time.
A steady clumping noise drew everyone’s attention towards the hallway. The noises were interrupted by long pauses and then the clumping would resume. Pippin started towards the door, his curiosity peaked, but Elrond waved him towards a chair. The elf Lord started to rise from Frodo’s side when the clumping resumed and then just as suddenly it stopped. A quavering, pale and heavily perspiring Ranger stood, leaning over a pair of wobbling crutches, framed by the doorway. Elrond rose quickly giving his foster son a thunderous look. Sam looked between the two and knew that Aragorn was about to ‘catch it hot’, to coin a phrase and he was suddenly grateful to be small and all but invisible.
Now, it should be known that the Herald of Gil-galad, Elrond Halfelven, seldom was heard within the boundaries of the Rivendell Vale, and although Frodo had read the stories of the last alliance of men and elves and the great battle that they had fought together against Sauron and his orcs, he was ill prepared for the deafening roar that caused all of them to cover their ears and cry out in pain. Throughout the Vale all stopped what they were doing and listened in awe. Two riders approaching the Vale, as alike in feature as they were different in personality, stopped their horses and listened.
“I wager that this involves the hobbits in some way,” said Elladan.
“Nay, not even hobbits could evoke such an outburst,” the mirror image said with a similar grin. “I only remember one other time hearing our father shout so and it involved our foster brother, therefore I wager that Aragorn has had something to do with the disruption of the peace in Rivendell.” They shared a laugh and shook hands, sealing the bet, then resumed their descent into the Vale.
Frodo cried out, jumping at the shout, causing his shoulder to flare in pain. The very walls of the great home seemed to stutter.
“What is the meaning of this?” Elrond bellowed. Aragorn lost his balance as the boom threw him backwards. Elrond lunged forward, catching the Ranger. He was furious, but he still loved his foster son.
“I heard Frodo cry out,” Aragorn said, suddenly realizing how weak his argument sounded. “I am needed here, Father. I cannot remain abed while he suffers,” he added in defiance.
“You would permanently cripple yourself when you know full well that he is being attended to by the best healers in all of Middle Earth?” Elrond shouted. He removed Aragorn’s crutches, throwing them aside as he and the healer carried the man to a bed. “You could have done irreparable damage to your leg by acting so impulsively,” he continued. He propped the leg up on two hastily retrieved pillows. He covered Aragorn and signaled the healer to bring some water for the man.
Elrond waved him off dismissively, “We will *discuss* this later. For now, I have a slightly more compliant patient to see to,” he bit out before turning away. Aragorn flushed in chagrin feeling more like a troublesome ten year old than a grown man.
Elrond sat down on the left side of the bed. Frodo startled and shrunk away, his attention had momentarily been distracted by the hub bub Strider had created. “Frodo,” Elrond said, struggling to reclaim some semblance of calm, “Tell me about your outing to the Rim Rock. Were you injured…perhaps you fell and reinjured your shoulder?”
Frodo glanced over at Strider and saw that the Ranger was listening intently. His eyes teared up as he looked at the man’s broken leg and the pained and strained face of his friend. “Strider saved me,” he began, his voice quavering. “Had he not thrown me aside I would have been injured far worse than just a bruised shoulder.”
Elrond smiled, “He is a loyal friend to you, is he not?”
“Oh yes, even when we treated him so horribly in Bree he has only been caring and concerned of me and my kin.” The corner of Strider’s mouth slowly curled into a small smile as he listened to Frodo. Little did Frodo know that he had been treated far worse by those of his own race than by the hobbit and his friends. “I would be quite upset if he were to be punished simply because of my inability to tolerate pain without crying out,” Frodo said softly.
Elrond frowned, aware that he was being artfully manipulated. “I will consider your plea for leniency,” he said dryly. Aragorn smiled in admiration of the hobbit. “Were there any other instances where you could have injured yourself on your hike?”
Frodo glanced guiltily towards Sam and Sam frowned, pursing his lips together.
“I knew it! I knew it all along,” Sam muttered. Elrond looked over at Sam and the gardener closed his mouth with an audible snap.
“I am sorry, Sam, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself when Strider was hurt so badly.” Sam blushed and Frodo saw the gardener’s jaw muscles jump as he ground his teeth, but Sam remained silent and continued to study the floor.
“How far did you fall, Frodo?” Elrond asked.
“Not far…” Frodo said vaguely, looking away.
Elrond’s eyebrows rose, “I see,” he said noncommittally. “Alright, well like as not your shoulder has been badly bruised and will need to be examined.”
Frodo gave him a sharp look that slowly changed to one of acceptance. “I am sure you will be gentle as always, my Lord,” Frodo said flatly and looked away.
“Of course, but for now we will get you something to eat and arrange a short rest before beginning. I will return later for the examination,” he said with a concerned smile.
Frodo sighed in relief. Perhaps he could still get a reprieve from the prodding. If only Merry and Pip could create some mischief and distract the elf Lord. He sighed closing his eyes.
“Gandalf, please accompany me,” Elrond murmured. Gandalf rose and exited with Elrond and they walked towards the kitchens. As they entered the elf lord saw that a stew bubbled over the fire in preparation for luncheon. “Please give me a small bowl of stew for the Ringbearer, but strain out the meat and mash up the vegetables,” he asked the cook.
“As you wish, my Lord,” the cook said respectfully.
“What are you up to, my friend?” Gandalf asked with a smirk.
“Why Gandalf, you wound me,” Elrond said with a chuckle. Soon the soup was on a tray along with a tall glass of carrot juice. Elrond looked at the cook questioningly.
“It is his favorite, my Lord,” the cook said with a blush.
Elrond smiled. All of Imladris had become enamored with the little ones, especially for the slight but brave Ringbearer. He withdrew a small packet from his pocket and stirred the contents into the stew.
“Frodo would be most indignant if he knew he was being drugged,” Gandalf said, his eyes twinkling.
“Then we will not tell him,” Elrond replied with a grin.
They left the kitchen and walked down the long corridor entering Frodo’s room. Elrond sat down beside Frodo’s bed and took the cover off of the tray. Frodo’s face blanched as the aroma wafted off of the stew.
“You must eat something, Frodo, or if you prefer, we could begin the examination now,” Elrond said smoothly. He scooped a small spoon of stew up and Frodo grudgingly opened his mouth, his choice made. Frodo swallowed dutifully and gradually his eyes began to glass over until they finally closed. Elrond check the hobbit's pulse and satisfied that Frodo was truly unconscious turned to a nearby healer, “I shall require a surgical tray,” he said. The healer bowed and left.
“I would have you wait outside while we treat your Master, little ones,” Elrond said. One look at the elf’s face confirmed to all that this was not a request. Deara herded the hobbits into the hallway as she whispered reassurances to them. Balorian came into the room bearing the requested surgical tray and closed the door behind him. Aragorn raised himself up on his forearms but a look from Elrond caused him to lie back down.
“Let us begin,” Elrond said softly.
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